Pamela A. Zeiser By: Pamela A. Zeiser
Associate Professor of Political Science
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25 Jun 2020 : Continuing Clusters and Public Opinion in Jacksonville, FL

On June 16, I reported bars and restaurants in the beach communities of Jacksonville, FL, USA closing for cleaning and testing of staff after being identified as the source of clusters of COVID-19. (According to the local news, that was as a result of infected customers self-reporting to the businesses, not contract tracing.) Since then, at least 15 more bars and restaurants have closed for the same reasons. Some have reopened. The general beaches area, however, has seen a significant drop in business patronage as fears remain. Pete’s Bar in Neptune Beach (made famous by a John Grisham novel) has closed despite NOT being identified as a source of outbreak, with the owner explaining that they were trying to be more proactive about putting protections in place. This is the same owner who publicly called on our Governor to reopen earlier. Some of the bars/restaurants have reported spending thousands of dollars for cleaning and testing of staff.

Yesterday, the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab released results of a “Jacksonville Speaks” poll that showed 60% of respondents are more concerned about public health than the economy, though that is down by 10 points since a similar poll in April. Fifty-six percent of respondents believe Jacksonville is reopening too quickly.

Individual concerns about both COVID-19 in general and becoming ill with the virus have also dropped since April, with 79% very or somewhat concerned in general (-14%) and 67% very or somewhat concerned about catching the virus (-15%).

With the Republican National Convention (RNC) coming here in August, the poll shows that 58% of respondents strongly or somewhat oppose the decision. Additionally, 71% of respondents are very or somewhat concerned that convention visitors will increase the spread of COVID-19 in Jacksonville. This does vary by party, however, with 91% of Democratic respondents compared to 42% of Republican respondents selecting very or somewhat concerned.

(Click here to see press release, full results, and methodology of the Jacksonville Speaks poll.)

UPDATE: The day after I posted this, the State of Florida ordered bars to close their premises again until further notice. Sales in sealed containers for off-site consumption are allowed.

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